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February 25, 2004

A novel attack on the First Amendment
Posted by Teresa at 02:56 PM *

I hear from David Wilford that the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has declared that American publishers cannot edit works authored in nations under trade embargoes, including Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, and Cuba. Treasury says that although publishing the work is legal, editing is a “service,” and it’s illegal to perform services for embargoed nations. It can be punishable by fines of up to a half-million dollars or jail terms as long as 10 years.

My first reaction was to wonder whether they’re so ignorant that they think editing is a service, but copy editing, typesetting, proofreading, designing, shooting, printing, publicizing, distributing, and selling are not. If you did no more than xerox off loose facsimile manuscripts from the writer’s original, you’d be performing a service.

But on second thought, I think they’re aware that editing is not distinguishable from publishing. I think this is meant to keep us from publishing works written in those nations, whether or not the Constitution says that we may do so.

Comments on A novel attack on the First Amendment:
#1 ::: Mike Kozlowski ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 03:26 PM:

Unrelated to this entry, but: In the mammoth entry, you have an HTML error that breaks rendering in Lynx (you have a title attribute miswritten as a title tag). Feel free to delete this when it's fixed.

#2 ::: Castiron ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 04:16 PM:

(The HTML error's affecting my Netscape 6.0 too.)

So a university press's translations of an Iranian author's works might be illegal? Granted, they're short stories rather than scientific articles, but translation seems to me as much a service as editing....

(The marketeer in me can't help wanting to use that as a selling point. "You too can own an illegal book!" Gotta be some way to convince folks to buy Middle Eastern fiction in translation....)

#3 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 04:23 PM:

(Rogue tag exterminated.)

#4 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 04:24 PM:

This came up some months ago, in connection with scientific journals publishing papers by Iranian, etc. scientists, and in fact the prohibited "service" _is_ simple copyediting, not editing content. (Peer review is apparently allowed.)

It's not clear if this is actually a deliberate attempt to suppress publication of works from "bad" countries, or just unintended consequences/bureaucratic stupidity at work, but alas, in the current environment, it's really hard to ascribe to stupidity what can be adequately explained by malice.

#5 ::: FranW ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 04:27 PM:

How very odd. Is it just me, or is the world gettting crazier every day?

It's madness enough for fiction publishing, but trespassing on scientific freedom seems really OTT. I wonder what they do if the scientific article is a collaboration between American and Iranian scientists? Or if the work is by Brits working in Iraq? And has anybody told the idiots making these rules that the scientists end up =paying= for publication, rather than the other way 'round? (Most journals charge somewhere between a hundred and a thousand dollars per page to "defray printing charges", and each journal article will therefore be labelled somewhere in really tiny letters as being an "advertisement".)

#6 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 04:28 PM:

This will affect scientific publishing (especially your corporate cousin Nature, Teresa) somewhat more than fiction, I would imagine. Not that it's any more sensible with regards to science, but there you go.

I can see it-- "That paper with the massive breakthrough on how to stop HIV progression, where's it from? Iran? Into the trash with it!"

People are posting while I'm previewing and saying what I want to say better. Gerrh. Anyway.

#7 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 04:31 PM:


Vigilant Protectors of America's Computer Networks Against Role-Playing Game Broaden Scope to "Any Books We Can't Read, Period"

#8 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 04:47 PM:

FranW wrote:
> It's madness enough for fiction publishing, but trespassing on scientific freedom seems really OTT.

You did hear about the group of sixty scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, blasting the
current administration for ignoring inconvenient scientific results? And note too that as a
direct result of the ban on stem cell research, the most recent breakthrough towards theraputic
cloning occurred in South Korea...

I have a theory: the current administration wants to roll back to the Good Old Days: the mid 1930s.
No New Deal, women and minorities firmly in their place, cheap and plentiful labor, and technology
going to build new and better toys for the moneyed classes.

#9 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 05:02 PM:

Well, it seems that the proper loophole here is that the authors and scientists in the embargoed nations submit their works to as poetry, because as the record of that publisher shows, they publish everything, and I do mean everything, submitted with absolutely no editing whatsoever.

Of course that means that we'd have to buy the groundbreaking Iranian HIV work in a $35 vanity-vulture coffeetable book entitled "Songs of My Heart," but at least we'd find a publisher who could prove in court that NO EDITING WAS DONE.

After all, they've published grocery lists and plagarized Dickinson and Frost.

But indeed, this is a case of malice and not incompetence.

#10 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 05:03 PM:

Yes, that's how they attack the First Amendment, of course it's legal to publish them, you just can't give them services, editing is a service, yes, printing and collating is editing...

And why would anyone hate America enough to challenge it?

"It's all in Plato, all in Plato, what do they teach them in these schools."

It's in Machiavelli too.

#11 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 05:19 PM:

Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...

So how do they get around the Bill of Rights?

Answer: This isn't a law, it's a regulation. And Congress isn't doing it, it's an agency.

Don't you love watching a plan come together?

(Note: So far Bush hasn't quartered any soldiers in a house without the owner's consent ... at least not in peacetime. But there's a war on, see? Yay for the Rule of Law!)

#12 ::: Connie ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 05:31 PM:

A friend who works in an art & architecture MIT Library was very surprised earlier this year to find out that she couldn't order art history books directly from Cuba; it was necessary to go through a third party in Panama to obtain the desired texts. God help that some student engineer at MIT who is taking a world art class should be polluted by looking at reproductions of paintings by Reds.

#13 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 05:34 PM:

Weirded out.

You mean, if somebody writes a well-researched paper in one of these countries--say on cancer research or osmosis in plant cells or policy in their country affecting the poor, or something else that might be truly useful--it CAN'T be published here? At all?

What about Iraqi bloggers making use of blogger and the internet? Do the use of the internet or US websites qualify as services too?

#14 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 05:44 PM:

There's nothing this side of telepathy that can't be construed as involving a service.

#15 ::: Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 05:49 PM:

I blogged this wrt scientific journals here, including a brief excerpt from the official OFAC explanation of their rules, which makes it quite plain that copy edits, etc., of works by the damn furriners are verboten. So no, Teresa, you aren't just being paranoid here. At least, not excessively paranoid.

#16 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 06:15 PM:

We hates them, we hates them, precious.

Me and my one little vote are very much looking forward to November. That's my mantra whenever I read of fresh new atrocities and start feeling impotent again. I hope there aren't enough Diebold machines out there to make the difference.

#17 ::: FranW ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 08:08 PM:

I can just see the ad in the back of the Journal of Crap Science:

"Did your grant proposal get rejected because you haven't published enough in the field? Have you been passed up for promotion because your list of papers isn't long enough? Are you tired of being a technician even though you have a PhD? _Help Is On The Way!!!!_ For a one-time fee of US$900, we will send you a list of six thousand -- yes, SIX THOUSAND -- scientists in banned countries who are looking for American co-authors. All you have to do is be the corresponding author for the journal submission process. You don't even have to _read_ the paper, as the journal editors will make all the necessary corrections. Imagine yourself getting HUNDREDS of papers published this year! Be the envy of all your colleagues, double your salary, and jump-start your career NOW!"

#18 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 08:14 PM:

I'd rather see them submit those to PublishAmerica because the book would be cheaper than from and... Oops, I forgot... PublishAmerica claims they do edit.

Ah well, they should send it there anyway. Meiners might like a Cuban vacation. ;)

#19 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 08:15 PM:

It doesn't take that much mental gyration to construe telepathy as a service, either: imagine (in a medieval setting, perhaps) a guild of telepaths who discover a way to make telepathy work over long distance and provide the first rapid-scale international communications network.

#20 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 08:30 PM:

Oh hell, not only would the telepaths be charged with providing a service, but also with practicing psychotherapy without a license:

*All these repressed emotions... when you were six, you gagged on a hot dog... this is the root of your sexual problems with your fiance, Oscar...*

#21 ::: Mr Ripley ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 08:39 PM:

But . . . but . . . they have Evil Chemistry and Evil Biology in those countries. I mean, the War on Foreigners can't hurt science, because all major scientific and medical discoveries are made here in the Land of the Free by good ol' American Know-How.

Seriously, I know people who think that way. On the other hand, university science departments, who know how much of science involves international collaboration, have been pretty alarmed for a good while now.

#22 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 08:54 PM:

As you say, it's absurd to single out editing as different to everything else a publisher has to do to get someone's ideas on paper, or "publish" them.

Hmm, there are such things as editors in other countries, are there not? So a North Korean could send his manuscript to, say, Seoul to be edited before sending it on to the USA. Or edit it in Singapore, Hong Kong, Bombay. I don't know whether a publisher would be allowed to just outsource the editing to another country, or whether a legal workaround would be necessary. But it could be done, I'm sure.

#23 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 09:11 PM:

Oh, great. Let's send editing jobs overseas too....

#24 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 09:41 PM:

I was just thinking that. Jo or Emmet or Graydon could edit it, but I can't. Alternately, we could send it to Jim, and for a modest fee he could drive fifteen miles north and edit it there.

Canada has a perfectly good publishing industry. I know; I used to work for Quill & Quire in Toronto, and Patrick and I did freelance editing on two successive editions of New and Forthcoming Canadian Books. Plenty of people on the other side of the border who can edit.

Or, someone in Canada could just set up as a beard. That's even easier. In these days, when articles can zip back and forth in email several times in one day, who's to say where a given set of edits got made? Just have someone in an English-speaking country set up as a freelance editor, and launder all your edits through them.

Easiest of all? Lie about it. Edit as you will. Incorporate the changes. Print out a fresh copy. Who's to say where the document changed, and why?

#25 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 10:20 PM:

University of Michigan professor and Middle East expert Juan Cole has an informative (and suitably outraged) post about this crap here. He provides the email addresses to complain to, too.

#26 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 01:03 AM:

*shakes head*

That's unspeakable.

#27 ::: Elusis ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 01:47 AM:

they have Evil Chemistry and Evil Biology in those countries.

Presumably Evil Biology involves the study of, among others, evil ducks, giraffes, and pilot fish...

#28 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 02:57 AM:

Evil Biology involves talking about Evolution, I'm thinking.

#29 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 03:47 AM:

Just have someone in an English-speaking country set up as a freelance editor, and launder all your edits through them.

I already know of a typesetter that outsources its keyboarding to Ireland. Speak English, on good diplomatic terms with most nations...India is probably another prime candidate.

#30 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 03:48 AM:

Just have someone in an English-speaking country set up as a freelance editor, and launder all your edits through them.

I already know of a typesetter that outsources its keyboarding to Ireland. Speak English, on good diplomatic terms with most nations...India is probably another prime candidate.

#31 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 03:48 AM:

Just have someone in an English-speaking country set up as a freelance editor, and launder all your edits through them.

I already know of a typesetter that outsources its keyboarding to Ireland. Speak English, on good diplomatic terms with most nations...India is probably another prime candidate.

#32 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 04:06 AM:

Reading Jo Walton's Livejournal, Canada does seem a nice place to live.

Reading some of the other stuff flying around, Canada also seems a little too close to the USA. A Canadian might be rather relieved that so much of the US Army is in Iraq. After all, 190 years isn't too long to wait to finish a war...

I am not entirely serious, but if fleeing to Canada looks like a valid choice, is Canada far enough?

#33 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 04:11 AM:

Sorry about triple post--not intentional--you can delete 2 of them.
So, hey, speaking of foreign publications, did you hear Saddam Hussein is coming out with a new book?
It's called Dude, Where's My Country...

#34 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 05:16 AM:

Robert L: I already know of a typesetter that outsources its keyboarding to Ireland.

In a previous life, I worked with an HR department that sent incoming resumes to Scotland for data entry. It was a bit more expensive than OCR, but the Scots did a much better job of handling tech-industry buzzwords and acronyms.


#35 ::: Naomi Libicki ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 05:48 AM:

Dave --

If the United States gets to the point of invading Canada, nowhere is far enough.

#36 ::: Tobias ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 08:20 AM:

J Greely: It was a bit more expensive than OCR, but the Scots did a much better job

Really? I've been told that the Scots are very cheap.

#37 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 08:25 AM:

Pshaw. We are not going to invade Canada. If we started a war with Canada but didn't win, we'd thereafter be obliged to keep an eye on the U.S.-Canadian border: vastly long, passing through almost every kind of terrain the continent has to offer, with people living on both sides who have a generations-long habit of popping over the border whenever they want. Isn't that just what we want to do with our military? Stick them out in Middle Of Nowhere, ND, so they can spend their days making sure farmers from Manitoba and Saskatchewan don't cross over into North Dakota, and vice-versa.

There's also the problem of invading anything past that populated southern strip. And the problem of invading Canada if you're not absolutely sure you can take the whole thing and be settled in before winter comes. And the Canadian military, which is small, highly trained, and hits very, very hard. And the Canadians themselves, who don't want to be part of the United States. And, my god, we'd have to deal with Quebec.

#38 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 08:26 AM:

Tobias: no, but that joke was.

#39 ::: Tobias ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 08:45 AM:

Why, yes. Yes, It was. :-)

#40 ::: Nicholas Weininger ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 08:48 AM:

Um, a small silly question, perhaps, but:

the excerpted story lists Iraq on the list of embargoed nations. What's up with that? I thought Iraq was supposed to be Liberated (tm).

#41 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 10:33 AM:

I'm somewhat annoyed at those fine chemists, though, for their dismissal of copyedtiing as unimportant. If they've never had a copyeditor catch an actual error, they either have incredibly good peer review, or need to hire better copyeditors. Authors make mistakes, in writing and typing. Peer reviewers don't always catch them because that's not what they're looking for.

Yes, I'm grumpy. You would be too, if people who should be on your side were dismissing your skills as trivial.

(Oh, and I have no idea why the entire thread, and everything I'm typing, is struck through, but I added a </strike> tag at the beginning of this, because it might help. It's very hard reading an entire thread with a horizontal line through it. And now I'm really puzzled, because the entire thread is clean here on my preview screen.)

#42 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 10:37 AM:

Nicholas -

Do the folks keeping the list belong to the faction in favour of "liberating" Iraq?

Governments don't exhibit monolithic opinions and objectives, after all; no matter what Congress says, frex, the INS thinks it exists to keep poor people out of the country.

Teresa -

I think all of those things are true; I also think that a group of people able to recognize that they're true would not have invaded Iraq.

#43 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 12:52 PM:

Heard that the policy has been reversed as of today, but couldn't find proof on the DOJ site.

Did find this, though:

#44 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 01:36 PM:

When I was 12 (twelve) I worked as a copy editor/proofreader for Chemical Abstracts, a voluminous publication.

Because of Child Labor laws, I had an adult intermediary who handed in my redlines and collected/cashed my checks.

I was known for pointing out that an "o" should be an omicron...

I know I provided a useful service. They knew; they paid. How dare a government tell me that a precocious (*) child can't illegally edit scientific manuscripts by authors in officially untouchable countries?

Remember "E for Effort" -- child educated by what we today call Computer Aided Instruction. He supported himself writing freelance...

This law discriminates against the editorially talented. Blatant violation of Equal Under the Law.

* pre·co·cious (adj.
(1) Manifesting or characterized by unusually early development or maturity, especially in mental aptitude.
(2) Botany. Blossoming before the appearance of leaves.
[From Latin praecox, praecoc-, premature, from praecoquere, to boil before, ripen early : prae-, pre- + coquere, to cook, ripen; see pekw- in Indo-European Roots.]
pre·cocious·ly adv.
pre·cocity (-ks-t) or pre·cocious·ness n.

#45 ::: Schweeet ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 01:45 PM:

(Most journals charge somewhere between a hundred and a thousand dollars per page to "defray printing charges", and each journal article will therefore be labelled somewhere in really tiny letters as being an "advertisement".)

This is the "free access" model of scientific publishing -- no subscription fees, but authors pay for publication (and in some cases it is taxpayers subsidizing publication, because people who get grants for their work can add the cost of publishing to the grant proposal). Some of the really major journals (like Nature) may use the same model, but usually the author's institution pays the publishing costs. Some journals, like the Journal of Medical Internet Research, will subsidize authors who haven't got the cash to pay for their own publication.

The prohibition on providing "services" to authors in certain parts of the world seems to me a way of making intellectual ghettoes. The topic came up a few months back on an editors' listserv to which we subscribe and sounded like a crazy rumor. Then, about a week later, an ms from an Iranian author arrived in the mail. It has been sitting on my desk for several weeks now because my editor in chief isn't sure how to handle it. We are contractors to a major medical publisher and I make $12 an hour. Do we want to risk fines or imprisonment to give this author, who almost certainly speaks English as a second language and will need copyediting among other "services," a publication venue?

If we reject the manuscript on that basis, the work may not be published at all, no matter how good it is, due to the small, specialized focus of the journal to which it was submitted. Since getting a manuscript to peer reviewers and refining the work for publication is a way for researchers to make connections, denying this kind of opportunity is tantamount to blocking scientific development.

Frankly, this just plain sucks. And there are plenty of other editors in our shoes (ie, an academic journal with "editorial staff" of one or two people and volunteer peer reviewers).

#46 ::: Rachel Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 02:07 PM:

Once upon a time, I was a graduate student (clear up through ABD, with a finished dissertation--a long story) in Government, with specializations in the American judicial system and public policy. I've gone and looked up the Supreme Court decisions on the first amendment, and based on the legal precedents, I would have said that there is simply NO was such a rule would pass judicial scrutiny.

Then we had conservative, states-rights-uber-alles Supreme Court Justices overruling a state's highest court to put the man with less than half the popular vote into the White House, and now I'm not so sure. But I'd still bet against a court upholding a conviction under this regulation. Is there a publishing house with a lot of spare cash and time who'd like to test it? (Aye, there's the rub...)

#47 ::: Edd Vick ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 03:25 PM:

Perhaps, Vicki, it is time for a strike rather than a /strike. That is, all proofreaders working for the current government refuse to provide their services. Then judges everywhere can work in solidarity with the one in San Francisco, and refuse to enforce laws that are poorly proofread.

#48 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 04:49 PM:

Rachel - see this interview, which was linked to in the article that PNH linked to. In short, the answer is, there are plenty. At least one of them is being quite public about ignoring the restrictions, and their editor alleges that there are plenty more who are just quietly ignoring them.

Schweeet - It occurs to me that the editor interviewed in that article references having done a fair bit of legal analysis on the matter. My guess is that he'd be quite willing to share the results of said analysis with your editor, which might help you make a somewhat more informed decision about your Iranian manuscript.

#49 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 06:02 PM:

Another vote here for not having to deal with Quebec. It's bad enough the bickering we have to deal with between the current states without adding THAT.

Iraq? It's on the other side of the globe. Not having a border is a big plus when you want to ditch out of somewhere.

#50 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 07:28 PM:

JvP: Remember "E for Effort" -- child educated by what we today call Computer Aided Instruction. He supported himself writing freelance...

By whom? I only know of the Sherred, which has nothing to do with either kids or CAI; it's about how many prejudices would be challenged by a movie of major events shot through a time portal.

Before I drag this thread further off the rails -- can anyone provide a direct cite for the regulation? I assume the ACS wouldn't be talking about an urban myth (I'm don't know enough about Democracy Now! to guess whether they would), but that ought to provide info on whether the govt has backed down, as somebody suggested up-thread.

#51 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 07:39 PM:

It does strike me that if (maybe when) the time comes to defend this particular policy, it will not be on the grounds of restricting the movement of information, but on controlling the flow of money to [insert Bad People here]. That is, at least, within Treasury's brief.

A bit like the surprisingly short-lived attempt to convince Americans to quit using drugs because it "financed terrorism." I really wanted to see an editorial reply by "Bubba X" of the American Council of Independent Marijuana Growers, indigntantly pointing out that his product was proudly made and consumed in the USA.

#52 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 07:41 PM:

Uh, "indignantly." America grows good stuff.

#53 ::: Stuart Buck ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 09:43 PM:

The letter from the Office of Foreign Assets Control can be found here. The letter applies a regulation (31 C.F.R. 560.204) that was last amended in 1999, under the Clinton administration. See Department of the Treasury, Iranian Transactions Regulations: Implementation of Executive Order 13059, 64 Fed. Reg. 20168 (Apr. 26, 1999). That regulation was meant to implement Clinton's Executive Order 13059 (which can be found here), which heavily restricted all trade with Iran.

It is unclear to me whether the Office's latest interpretive letter actually changed the interpretation of "services," or whether it was just reiterating a Clinton-era policy.

#54 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 10:09 PM:


whoops! Thank you, I confused titles. I meant "The Fourth R."

Another of those literary works with a letter in the title, such as "The Story of O" or "Portrait of the Comedian as the Letter C" or "The G Spot"...

#55 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2004, 11:12 PM:

What happens if the Iranian scientist gets accepted for publication in a Canadian magazine with full editing and layout privileges, and a US magazine reprints?

I can think of more ways around this than that, but that was the first one not yet mentioned that sprang to my mind.

The biggest one, of course, is using those e-mail addresses and letting your protest be heard.

#56 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 12:06 AM:

Oh, the "financed terrorism" ads have been replaced by even more embarrassing anti-drug ads, including the ones that intimate that frat boys will only fondle the breasts of stoned girls, and not just drunk ones, or for that matter, any girl late at night at a frat party. And the one with the cherubic toddler about ready to go for a swim by herself in the backyard pool, with the voice over "Just tell her parents you were getting high; I'm sure they'll understand."

Which has to be the all time ad for mad-libbing: "Just tell her parents you were [recreational activity]; I'm sure they'll understand."

Possible other options:

1. raiding the liquor cabinet
2. playing video games
3. blogging
4. screwing the gardener

And then there's the one that has the stoned kids running over the child at the drive thru.

Then again, perhaps we should be grateful that the new message is "Do not use drugs while on the job or operating heavy machinery."

#57 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 01:19 AM:

There's also:

1. taking your meds.
2. putting out a grease fire.
3. keeping the other kids from killing each other.
4. cutting lunch sandwiches into quarters.
5. answering the phone/door.
6. running the vacuum cleaner.
7. breathing.
8. thinking.
9. being something other than Person on Constant High Alert Against the Possibility of Disaster Befalling a Child In My Care.

No wonder caring for children in America now is considered such a high maintenance activity. Had my mother watched over me this closely, I think I would have strangled her.

#58 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 01:22 AM:

"Tell them you were loaded while their kids were buried at Arlington. They'll understand."

#59 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 01:51 AM:

It is unclear to me whether the Office's latest interpretive letter actually changed the interpretation of "services," or whether it was just reiterating a Clinton-era policy.

It is clear to me that the current prohibition on editing is a wilful misreading of the Clinton-era regulation, which specifically exempts "information and information services" from the embargo on trade with Iran.

#60 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 08:48 AM:

I visited that site about myths concerning the Patriotic act. Maybe they've never been thrown up against a wall before because of how they were dressed while the real perpetrator escaped. Maybe they've never been stopped late at night and asked why they weren't speeding. I guess they just don't see the potential for unbridaled abuse in its powers when there's already too much abuse of the current laws by those we trust to fairly and equally enforce them.

#61 ::: Stuart Buck ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 11:14 AM:

It is clear to me that the current prohibition on editing is a wilful misreading of the Clinton-era regulation, which specifically exempts "information and information services" from the embargo on trade with Iran.

Actually, Clinton's executive order referred to an exception for "information and informational materials," not "information services." Why does this make a difference?

Because the 1999 Clinton administration regulation (see above for the citation) stated that while informational "materials" were exempt, you still can't provide services as to those materials. Here's the precise quote from the regulation:

31 C.F.R. 560.210(c) Information and informational materials. (1) The importation from any country and the exportation to any country of information and informational materials as defined in § 560.315, whether commercial or otherwise, regardless of format or medium of transmission, are exempt from the prohibitions and regulations of this part.

(2) This section does not exempt from regulation or authorize transactions related to information and informational materials not fully created and in existence at the date of the transactions, or to the substantive or artistic alteration or enhancement of informational materials, or to the provision of marketing and business consulting services. Transactions that are prohibited notwithstanding this section include, but are not limited to, payment of advances for information and informational materials not yet created and completed (with the exception of prepaid subscriptions for widely circulated magazines and other periodical publications), provision of services to market, produce or co-produce, create or assist in the creation of information and informational materials, and payment of royalties to persons in Iran or to the Government of Iran.

Again, I don't know if this regulation had, prior to September 2003, been interpreted to apply to editing. But it would be worthwhile to become fully informed before leaping to blame the Bush administration, as some have done.

#62 ::: Andrea ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 01:36 PM:

Further evidence, as if any were needed, that our current administration recognizes the danger of thought.

#63 ::: Julie Mensch ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 02:35 PM:

No, not the dreaded THOUGHT police!

I can only imagine how sick and sad the world would be without the evolution of pygmy mammoths and gigantic beavers....

#64 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2004, 10:54 AM:

According to the Times,

Congress has tried to exempt "information or informational materials" from the nation's trade embargoes. Since 1988, it has prohibited the executive branch from interfering "directly or indirectly" with such trade. That exception is known as the Berman Amendment, after its sponsor, Representative Howard L. Berman, a California Democrat.

Critics said the Treasury Department had long interpreted the amendment narrowly and grudgingly. Even so, Mr. Berman said, the recent letters were "a very bizarre interpretation."

#65 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2004, 04:06 PM:

I have just edited a document written by someone in Iran, and published the result to a public Web server:

This Wikipedia article discusses the censorship of a reformist newspaper by the Iranian government because it published an article critical of the Guardian Council. I smoothed the prose.

#66 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2004, 07:05 PM:

'Damn!, ", ", ", " ' (H Higgins)
Left hand slammed in car boot lid Saturday. Blood, pain, etc. Now bandaged but sore. Typing slow, awkward. Will reduce blogging, comments, mail. Bad week on several levels, now this :( Not right hand :)

But gotta ask, has anyone here heard of suggested, partly started, boycott of Israeli science, publicatons, etc? Idea is like South African boycott - don't know if that covred science. I'd have hoped that original 'global' and 'disinterested' ideals would keep it asside.
[Ow. Stopping now.]

#67 ::: jean-pierre ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2004, 11:33 AM:

This development on the part of the government seems to me part of the long and gradual swing to the Right. I read this last night, and today, on reconsideration, I felt sure this presents a danger of serious erosion of First Amendment rights to freedom of speech:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abriding the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I never get tired of hearing or reading those words. I write this, being the eldest son of a woman who was detained illegally, along with her sister my aunt, because their father, my grandfather, the attorney Don Jorge Padilla, had defended the rights of the people in Jalisco to choose and practice, and express their faith.

Thanks to James D McDonald, Stuart Buck, Julia, and others for clarifying the matter of origin and responsibility for said regulation and laws.
Anyway, when I consider that the government is seeking to control, nay, even restrict speech, foreign though it be, I must express in the strongest terms and tone that we must protest this now, loudly and throughout the world, both in cyberspace and on the streets, and in the halls of government, and in our houses, workplaces, marketplaces, coffeehouses, bars, and eateries. I also commend the tactics suggested, e.g., to send works to, to outsource editing to other English-speaking countries, even to just go ahead and edit the works, and take the punishment if it comes. I mean, there are plenty of laws such as the Blue Laws, which include prohibitions against any other act of sex other than sex in the missionary position, such as in the military. But how many people ignore or willfully break such laws?

I raise my Weekend Edition coffee mug to toast y'all who have raised this matter and who are discussing it now. Happy Leap Day!

#68 ::: Shanna ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2004, 12:13 PM:

Y'all might be interested in Rebel Edit. The site also contains links to the OFAC regulations and a letter sent to a publisher who asked for clarification.

It's here:


#69 ::: Becky ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2004, 07:05 PM:

I'm just speechless. No one pointed out to the administration that this hurts Iranian, Iraqi, etc., science and American science? You'd think if any argument would hold water with the Bush administration, it would be that one. (Oh. Wait. I read the report by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Nevermind.)

And I'm very disappointed by the ACS backing down so quickly. Has anyone heard about the American Physical Society's reaction?

#70 ::: Becky ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2004, 10:18 PM:

Ack, I can't read. The ACS is challenging the policy. This should be interesting.

#71 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 10:35 AM:

What if trade were viewed as a right, so that restrictions on trade could be opposed as generally outrageous rather than having to be addressed case by case if the restrictions happen to restrict trade that seems virtuous and/or useful?

#72 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 11:02 AM:

Of course, if that had been the worldwide practice in the nineteenth century, we'd still be a second-rate power. The US bootstrapped its economy with decades of tough protectionism. Naturally, we've now fallen in love with an ideology that allows us to forbid such measures to anyone who might eventually rival us.

I'm of many minds about trade issues, but among the things I'm pretty sure of are (1) it's not simple and (2) most people who say "free trade" don't actually mean free trade. They mean get rid of the restrictions that get in my way, but for god's sake leave the others in place.

#74 ::: Rachel Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 12:18 PM:

Brooks--I was heartened by your link until I read the full article in the Times that Julia quoted from. Unfortunately, it would seem that the regulation is having just the chilling effect I feared, with most publishers complying while the AAP is "trying to persuade officials to alter the regulations and might file a legal challenge." I hope they succeed, but the result is at least a temporary abridgment of freedom of the press, setting a dangerous precedent.

Maybe we can all move to Bush's Mars colony...

#75 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 12:18 PM:

Not sure that efforts to bootstrap the American economy with protectionism worked and I am sure it wasn't tough by current standards.

On the other hand Henry Clay's American Plan surely saturated much of the American landscape with ditchweed so it wasn't a total loss.

#76 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 12:56 PM:

Well, I'm sure the Bush government is trying to reach Mars so they can send all us criminals there for illegal editing and such.

Oh, please don't put me in the briar patch!

#77 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 03:13 PM:

Dave, think Australia. Not the beautiful and exotic land it now is, but a penal colony run by people much more vicious than the criminals sent there.

Now add "no breathable air" to the equation. Mars might become a great place (as from all reports Australia now is), but being sent there as punishment would be dusty red hell.

#78 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 03:15 PM:

Oh, I'm sure they'll outsource prisons to China. They seem to be able to make them pay.

With any luck, we'll all get the same jobs.

#79 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 04:28 PM:

Clark -- do you have any source for your claim? Countering it, I've read that (e.g.) importing British steel was made seriously uneconomical (i.e., much worse than the "anti-dumping" duties that were recently declared out of bounds), despite local production being sufficiently bad that the worst grade of steel produced in Britain was referred to as "American". Just as in the current case, the tariffs represented specific interests, and may even have been more severe than would have benefited the U.S. as a whole; one of the causes cited for the Civil War is that the North was protecting its industries, making it difficult-to-impossible for the South to get a good price for its cotton.

#80 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 07:42 PM:

So this means editing must be done in the UK or Australia? Federally mandated outsourcing sucks, but it's not as if you could not expect such nonsense from the current administration.


#81 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 11:04 PM:

Yes I do, though why you're interested in self sufficiency in naval stores leading to hemp being raised all over the Middle Border beats me.

As to the question of ferrous metals notice that steel, the Bessemer process, followed by the open hearth process both came fairly late in the 19th Century - Bessemer had good ore and wanted to sell cannon fit for his shells (Merchant of Death?) and so on - had to be generalized to other ore and so forth. The Brits invented the processes and enjoyed trade secrets and R&D advantages.
In the 1870s Carnegie's new company built the first steel plants in the United States to use the new Bessemer steelmaking process, borrowed from Britain. Other innovations followed, including detailed cost- and production-accounting procedures that enabled the company to achieve greater efficiencies than any other manufacturing industry of the time. Any technological innovation that could reduce the cost of making steel was speedily adopted..... In 1890 the American steel industry's output surpassed that of Great Britain's for the first time.... Britannica 2003 on DVD
Notice the quality of British steel is clearly seen in the plates on the Titanic as well. Generally the American market was a large market and would absorb large quantities of inferior goods rather than smaller quantities of perhaps superior goods that would bear shipping costs - so American cheap if inferior, British specialty market sort of like Timex pin lever movements versus a good ETA movement in the last (20th) century. One of my favorite stories of the difference is a shipment of clocks with stamped gears from Connecticut to Great Britain (19th century) at a very low declared value - Great Britain assumed hobbed gears and had a value based tariff - Customs in GB thought they had detected an attempt at fraud and so purchased all the clocks at their declared value. The Connecticut people rushed their next shipment. Notice of course that stamped gears would wear quickly and the clocks would not be heirlooms. Hence the protected industry fell behind the market. If you want to believe the Mesabi ore from the Great Lakes boats would have transhipped in New York at the Erie Canal and gone off throught Manhatten to Great Britain in the absence of protective tariffs feel free. In general see the Connecticut Valley arms industry for mass production and interchangeable parts most especially to include tooling - Address Colonel Colt London is something you see on English Colts, not Birmingham Small Arms New York Branch on American guns.

#82 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 11:09 PM:

On the price of Southern cotton see the obs SF alt history where Bertie doesn't keep Great Britain out of the American Civil war - hard for me to reconcile Southern faith in King Cotton and the notion that the South had the world over a barrel with the notion that the South couldn't get a market clearing price for its cotton.

#83 ::: Alison Faye ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 11:30 PM:

Because it's late, maybe I am misinterpreting, or have not read all entries as thoroughly as I could, but when I read the US treasury letter, it seems to me this ruling applies to a lot more than scholarly scientific papers. Is this correct?

#84 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2004, 03:29 AM:

Patrick, the US has done quite well as (for a long time--I'm not sure about the EU now) the world' largest free trade, travel, and work zone. Somehow, the states managed without protection from competition with other states. What's the right size for a protection zone?

#85 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2004, 05:42 AM:

Nancy --
The current US unit is the Hectoburton. This is not yet SI approved, because, well, you know how the French are.

#86 ::: Rachel Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2004, 10:12 AM:

Alison: To the best of my understanding, it applies to ALL published materials, from scientific papers, to brochures, to children's books, to novels, to political exposes, to... Which is why I have my doubts about whether it would stand up to First Amendment scrutiny and why I'm so concerned about the chilling effect.

#87 ::: Stef ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2004, 11:27 AM:

At least it was easy for me to commit civil disobedience on this one. I didn't even have to buy an almanac.

#88 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2004, 11:42 AM:

So, anyone know where we can buy bumper stickers proclaiming, "They can have my red pencil when they pry it out of my cold, dead fingers"?

My thanks and apologies to Mr. Heston or the writer who came up with the original.

#89 ::: clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2004, 01:36 PM:

I guess we'll always be divided blue and red, my t-shirt says blue pencil

#90 ::: FranW ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2004, 05:07 PM:

This info is being widely disseminated to scientists via mailing lists. One has noted that this is just the tip of the iceberg:

"Another result of the present administration's scientific policy is that at least two of the Chairs of the recent (January) SPIE BiOS meetings were not present because these distinguished Russian scientists had not received visas."

Lots o' pissed off scientists out there now....

#91 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2004, 06:05 PM:

I'm not sure it's the tip of the iceberg. It seems more like the prow of the TITANIC.

#92 ::: Joy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2004, 09:21 AM:

Here's an article in The Scientist in which a quote by a Treasury official indicates there may be a resolution soon, at least for articles whose copyrights have been transferred to the US publishers.

#93 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2004, 11:43 AM:

Re FranW and John M. Ford's comments...

Two editors here had visa problems. One was coming from London (from the London office, but she's British) to work from this office, and was denied at first, and it took 3 months to sort it all out. The other is Australian by citizenship, and had gone up to Montreal to renew his visa-- something about British commonwealth allowed it-- and then wasn't let back in to the country for 8 weeks while a background check was done (turns out that Malaysia-- his birth nation-- is on some watch list or other).

The upshot is, a lot of work in a lot of forms is going to be either delayed, denied, or destroyed. Which will result in less scientists coming to work in the US, either at universities or research institutes, which will mean less money from patents etc., which will mean less revenue, less prestige, less grant money available, less of everything. It's already starting, with regard to stem cell research.

#94 ::: Zeynep ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2004, 03:50 PM:

This is somewhat old news by now, but IEEE, which publishes more than 100 peer-reviewed technical journals in the areas related to electrical engineering, computing and communications and has worldwide membership, had been trying to get an exemption from that regulation for a while, and earlier this month they succeeded.

(I hope the link is visible to everyone; some areas of the IEEE web site are prescription-only, but I have no way of checking if this particular page is so because I'm on a campus network that is prescribed wholesale).

#95 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2004, 04:54 PM:

I'll have to go to my doctor and get that subscription renewed!

#96 ::: Zeynep ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2004, 03:48 PM:

Note to self: Posting even short notes on too few hours of sleep, not so good an idea.

#98 ::: fidelio sees even more spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2004, 09:55 AM:


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